A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


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May 16th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity
Making good on diversity promises

One of the most important jobs of any newsroom in any city is to tell the stories of the people who shape and construct the narratives of the community. But for many years, newsrooms, reporters and leaders did not reflect those communities as well as they should.


April 14th, 2022 • Featured
Op-ed writer challenges newspaper’s decision to inform readers of past crime

Steve Schulz’s social life often led him to downtown Minneapolis, where he’d attend ball games, go to the theater or just have drinks with friends. Since he was there so much, he decided to sell his house in the suburbs and get an apartment downtown, where he could walk to his favorite hangouts.


April 12th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ten With...
10 with Lars Willnat

Every 10 years since 1982, researchers for “The American Journalist” survey a representative sample of journalists throughout the United States to understand who makes up the profession and their attitudes toward it. Leading the survey this year is Lars Willnat, the John Ben Snow Endowed Research Professor in the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.


March 25th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Widely shared Ketanji Brown Jackson graphic misleading without context

A Washington Post graphic comparing Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s experience with that of current justices has been widely shared on social media, sometimes without the headline that provides important context.  The chart ran online and in the newspaper with the headline, “How Ketanji Brown Jackson’s path to the Supreme Court differs from the current justices.”


March 18th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
From the President: Communities make a difference

Since becoming president of the Society of Professional Journalists, I’ve constantly talked about #SPJStrong. We are a strong organization in part because we have two communities that bring journalists together for a common cause. If you’re a freelancer looking to expand your network, find a job lead or join a supportive group, all you have to do is turn to the SPJ Freelance Community.


March 9th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Freedom of Information
Declining fulfillment typifies today’s FOIA. Here’s why.

(image credit: www.epictop10.com) Many a great story has come out of Freedom of Information Act findings. At the same time, many a story doesn’t get written because the requested documents don’t arrive by deadline – if at all. And the two-year-old pandemic is worsening response times.


March 8th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Words & Language Toolbox
Is That the Right Word?

Racking your brain for the right word is particularly grueling on deadline. Are paramedics attempting to stanch the bleeding after a mass shooting? Or should that be staunch? And was the lawyer riffling through her notes, or rifling? Did the defense refute or rebut the arguments?


February 17th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Hicks: Palin case dismissal comes with a reminder of vulnerability

Both the jury and judge who considered Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit against The New York Times concluded she did not prove her case. That means news shops will continue to enjoy the high legal standard that’s rarely met by plaintiffs attempting to prove libel. 


February 16th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Blog, Quill Archives
Beyond the Zucker headlines, another ethics issue

Jeff Zucker’s departure from the network he led has been big news. But media executives and newsroom managers who strive to produce journalism with high ethical standards should take note of a passing detail in the events at CNN that preceded his leaving. 


February 15th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Code Breakers

Violations of journalism ethics come in a variety of types, many of which were committed in 2021. Some happen because of bad judgment, some are committed by journalists who know they are wrong and some come from maintaining the status quo without question.


February 8th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ten With...
10 with Apoorva Mandavilli

You may recognize Apoorva Mandavilli’s name due to the sheer number of COVID-19 stories bylined by The New York Times health and science reporter. Her background in both science and reporting on other infectious diseases truly prepared her for this moment.


February 4th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Accident brings attention to safety of lone journalists in the field

On the night of Jan. 19, Tori Yorgey was in the field doing a live report for the 11 p.m. news on NBC affiliate WSAZ in Huntington, West Virginia. Yorgey was covering the significant winter storm that hit the area, which resulted in a water main break in Dunbar, a town roughly 7 miles west of the state capital Charleston.


January 31st, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
Eyes in the skies: Getting the most out of satellite data and images

On May 13, 2021, the British Antarctic Survey observed a massive chunk of ice breaking off Antarctica. A generation ago, journalists would have had very little specific information to write about such an event. But in this case, we almost knew immediately that the iceberg A-76 measured around 4,320 square kilometers (about 1,668 square miles) in size, making it the largest berg in the world at that point.


January 27th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Legal matters: To retweet or not to retweet? 

To retweet or not retweet. This isn’t a complicated question for most tweets. But not all. Some retweets can be used as evidence in a defamation suit against a journalist. Think this is fiction? Think again. Recently, a federal appeals court said a journalist’s retweet of a potentially defamatory article via Twitter can be used as evidence of malice in a defamation suit.  


January 7th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
UN warns of ‘a significant number’ of risks toward journalists 

The United Nations has warned that journalists still face a significant number of risks, even as newly released figures show the lowest death toll of journalists and media workers in over a decade.  The Observatory of Killed Journalists at UNESCO, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency, reported that 55 journalists and media workers lost their lives in the past year.  


January 6th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives
Face-to-Face Value

An Oklahoma City TV station reported in September that local emergency rooms were turning away gunshot victims because they were inundated by victims of ivermectin overdose. Great story — and one fitting into the media narrative debunking the myth that ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medicine used for livestock, can be used as a COVID-19 preventive.


January 4th, 2022 • Featured, Quill Archives, From the President, SPJ Report
From the President: #SPJChapterStrong

SPJ professional and student chapters are the backbone of our organization. Often the “boots on the ground” for our local journalists, student journalists and journalism educators, they play a big part in the strength of SPJ. That’s why I’m devoting my Quill columns to our chapters, whether they are standing up for the rights of journalists, raising scholarship money or giving students a place to grow their network on campus.


December 20th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Quick-and-Dirty Fact-Checking Tools to Help You Get it Right

I’ve been posting fact-checking tools to Journalist’s Toolbox for more than a quarter of a century. Verification is at the core of what we do as journalists, and having good resources at our fingertips. Here are a few of my “quick-and-dirty” tools I’ve been using to fact-check stories, photos and video: The Google Fact Check Explorer tracks if a story has been fact-checked by an independent source.


December 7th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
Journalist’s Gift Guide 2021

At first, we thought we’d go for practical this year. After all, journalism is serious business. Then we thought about what a tough year it’s been for many and thought “fun” would be a better road to go. Then again, what about stylish gifts?


November 23rd, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
“The French Dispatch” and more added to SPJ’s journalism movie rankings

We started with 110 journalism films, in honor of SPJ’s 110th anniversary. But the list keeps growing, both with new flicks and discoveries from the past. Here are the latest additions, as reviewed by our project partners at Midwest Film Journal.


November 16th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
Bookshelf: Behind the biographies with Ray Boomhower

Biographer and ex-reporter Ray Boomhower has made a career out of commemorating the lives of some of our less-celebrated historical figures. His works include explorations of Gus Grissom (the second American in space); Lew Wallace, (Civil War general and the author of the novel Ben Hur); and Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd U.S.


November 8th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Resize Social Media Images in Sprout Social’s Landscape Tool

A few years ago at a training at the University of Cincinnati, a participant asked me about sizing social media images. Her problem: How can the social media desk properly size an image to fit in a Facebook header, Twitter feed and Instagram in just a few minutes.


November 4th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, People and Places
2021 Fellow Feature: Clarence Page

Now a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, journalist Clarence Page has covered the news for over 50 years, beginning his career in his high school newsroom and working for local Ohio publications including the Middletown Journal. Landing at the Tribune, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist’s coverage is now a staple in households across America.


November 1st, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Bookshelf
Extra! Extra! Read all about the Fellows of the Society

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Fellows of the Society aren’t just noted for their work in newspapers, magazines, television, radio and online. Combined, they have written what amounts to a library full of books, since the program began in 1948. Here’s a sampling of those between-covers projects penned by just the past decade of Fellows.


October 14th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Create Layered Maps in Google MyMaps

Google MyMaps is the perfect tool for mapping small datasets for dayturn stories and projects. Have a dataset of pothole repairs in your city? Map it. Tracking crime in certain neighborhoods? Load a spreadsheet from your police department into MyMaps. There are thousands of stories to be found in datasets on your city, county, state and federal data portals.


October 8th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Hicks: Colorado fabrication further erodes trust in journalism

There are countless reasons why many Americans do not trust information reported by journalists, and no one change will turn that around. But each reporting infraction pushes the trust meter in the wrong direction, even if incrementally.  The latest breach occurred in Boulder, Colorado, at the Daily Camera, where the newspaper published a nearly 900-word retraction on Page 1 pointing out an extensive list of problems with a story, including numerous false quotations. 


October 4th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Diversity, People and Places
2021 Fellows Feature: Maria Hinojosa

For almost four decades, Maria Hinojosa has shared the stories of marginalized communities through work that celebrates the diversity of the American experience. In 1992, she helped launch the Peabody Award–winning “Latino USA” — one of the earliest public-radio shows devoted to Latino issues — and is its host and executive producer.


September 28th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives
Rising postal rates (again) prompt publisher concerns

It’s not as though community newspapers aren’t struggling enough these days: declining advertising and circulation, COVID-19 and increased printing costs. Now they’re dealing with another scourge — increasing postage rates. Even in this era of instant electronic access to news and hedge fund ownership of newspapers, many small American towns still depend on that locally-owned mail-delivered weekly to keep them informed of community happenings.


September 20th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, People and Places
2021 Fellows Feature: Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters, who would become one of 20th century television journalism’s most well-known faces, almost didn’t enter the field. TV was in its infancy when she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951, and her personal background hardly pointed toward a career in the new medium.


September 13th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, Digital Media Toolbox, Education Toolbox
SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox Tool of the Month: Tools in the classroom. Plus: Replacing “very”

With the school year underway, let’s explore how to implement Journalist’s Toolbox into a classroom rather than focus on a single tool this month. College professors and high school journalism teachers have used the site for more than 25 years, mainly for research purposes.


September 9th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, People and Places
2021 Fellow Feature: Yamiche Alcindor

Yamiche Alcindor sees her role as seeking the truth on behalf of Americans and telling stories in ways that connect to their lives. Alcindor is White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and moderator of “Washington Week,” a PBS news analysis show anchored for years by her late mentor, Gwen Ifill.


September 3rd, 2021 • Featured, Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: Building by listening

I’ve done a lot of listening in my year as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. The best membership organizations are built around listening. I think back now to the first moments of my term, when I gave an inaugural speech in shorts and a jacket from my bedroom, my youngest daughter lying on the floor outside my closed door, listening.